WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 (Wii) - Review by Chris
With many of the sports games on the Wii, developers have had a trying time trying to get the most out of the system to ensure that the Wii versions are every bit as worth it as the other home console versions. THQ's WWE Smackdown Vs Raw series has also suffered this fate with previous years slowly but surely taking steps in the right direction to replicate the atmosphere of the sport and bring the same content as other versions. After some false starts, THQ have made some big changes to this year's title, ditching some aspects from previous iterations altogether and bringing in a wealth of new content. But does it make this year's title a must have?
Previous years have seen complaints from some fans stating that the Wii version wasn't up to the standard of the other home console iterations, with fewer modes and less content available. Luckily, THQ have listened to this and many of the other complaints that the fans and critics have has and that prior statement can no longer be levelled against this year's title. WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2010 on the Wii contains almost everything content wise that the other versions contain and when you sit down to take stock of all that is crammed on to the disc, there's a huge amount of content on offer. This will immediately become apparent from simply choosing the Play option; the standard mode allowing for single and multiplayer play for up to 4 people, the number of match types is phenomenal. To begin with, you choose from the basic setup you want to play through, be it one on one or all the way up to Royal Rumble, and within each of these there are plentiful modes to choose from, from ladder matches to hell-in-a-cell matches, to elimination chamber matches. Every conceivable match type is available at your finger tips to play. From the Play mode alone, there are hours upon hours of content for you to play; so much so that you'll find it hard to pull yourself away. Some of the modes here have been tweaked from last year though, with the Royal Rumble seeing the most significant upgrade. Now when you play this match type, with your target groggy on the rope, you enter into one of a series of mini-games to give you the leverage you need to push your opponent out of the ring or to save yourself. These take on the form of button mashing exercises, quick time events, or a game where you have to stop a moving line at a specific section of a meter to kick your opponent off of the ropes and onto the floor. It does make for a more exciting option but does feel slightly repetitive the longer the match goes on.
An extensive career mode makes a return and here you can go through the arbitrary task of either taking a created wrestler up through the ranks to the top or one of the existing wrestlers from either the WWE or ECW brands, with there being an extensive roster covering both with some surprise unlockable characters harking back to some of the greats of the squared ring. Yet while this is a fantastic mode in its own right, it's some of the other modes that take centre stage. New this year, the Championship Scramble lets you battle it out for many of the big titles in the sport in 5, 10 or even 20 minute matches where two fighters begin the match and more and more wrestlers will continue to arrive in the ring until the time is up. Road To Wrestlemania, another new mode, puts you in control of one of 6 characters as they look to reach Wrestlemania and win or retain their respective titles, or you can take a created wrestler to the top or even go with a brand warfare setting where Raw and Smackdown battle it out. These are both fantastic additions to an already fantastic set up and provide some excellent alternatives to what is already here. There are more new modes though, coming in the creation spectrum. The usual Create a Wrestler mode returns and it extensive as ever but has seen little change from last year. Create a Finisher makes its debut on the console and is pretty self explanatory but is a nice option, as are the Create an Entrance and Moveset options that really give your created characters their own sense of being. The biggest inclusion, however, is the Create a Storyline mode. Here, you create the event from characters to matches to location. The possibilities are endless and with the mode being incredibly easy to get to grips with, it ensures that should you put time into it, and I seriously recommend doing so, you'll always have new and unique stories to play through as your favourite wrestlers.
The biggest departure mode wise from the game is the ability to connect online. Last year's title allowed for play across Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection but the result was a mode where lag was prevalent throughout and instead of trying to remedy this, THQ have left it out completely. It's a shame that the mode has been left out instead of being fixed but we can hold on to hope that it returns next year. It just would have been nice to play matches online and to share some of the creations you've made with friends and the like so here's hoping it returns next year.
The motion controls that had plagued earlier titles and stood as THQ's attempt to make the title stand out on the console have finally been dropped in favour of a more traditional button based setup. Fans of the franchise will be happy to know that along with the ability to use the Wii-mote and Nunchuk, you can also use either the Classic Controller or the Gamecube Controller and both of these setups make it considerably easier to play the game. All setups work well, however the Wii-mote and Nunchuk setup seems a little cluttered in comparison to the other two due to there being fewer button options to make use of and so realises to heavily on certain buttons to pull of numerous attacks and moves. The other control options are definitely the best way to go, especially if you want the complete, authentic experience which the game goes to extra lengths to provide although all suffer in regards to the game's targeting system, making it hard to attack specific targets even if you manually change as it doesn't always work. Also bear in mind that all control types take some getting used to but the learning curve isn't particularly steep.
There has been little in the way of graphical improvement over last year's game, with the same engine and assets being reused here. That's not particularly bad thing as character models were of a good quality and remain as such. Their animation is spot on when it comes to the moves, although when walking the characters around they still seem as stiff and robotic as ever, and everything moves fluidly, although there are some clipping issues but these don't affect the game at all. Arenas are well replicated, with the end of the month specials making the highlights, with the Raw and Smackdown arenas merely copied and pasted throughout regardless of where the game's Career or Road to Wrestlemania modes take you. Effects such as fireworks, smoke and lighting get the job done but it's through these that we can see that assets have been shared between the Wii and PS2 versions, which is a bit of a letdown. The crowd, however, remain as blocky and horribly designed as always. On the whole though, the game is generally good looking but it is starting to show its age and could really do with some refinement for next year's title because textures and certain effects feel flat on the Wii's hardware given we know it can do better.
The soundtrack you'll hear in the main menu is made up entirely of the entrance music for the stars and it's played randomly. It's nice to hear some of the entrances in a more extended form than you'll be used to from the matches but they're not played at the best of qualities here. In the game, though, they sound good and resonate well. The crowd are equally vocal with plentiful cheering and booing for their favoured wrestler as well as chants ringing around the arenas. It does make for more authentic experience. The commentary, given by Jerry "The King" Lawler and Michael Cole, unfortunately doesn't match this feeling. It feels forced and unnatural, with some lines and utterances being repeated by the commentators often. The same forced feeling comes through from the scripting for the wrestlers themselves. The voices sound the part but ultimately, the scripts don't make the scenes as believable as the actual shows do.
Previous years have brought good games but this year's title beats them all. WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2010 is bursting from the seams with content and options that it's hard not to recommend it to anyone looking for more from their wrestling games. There are plentiful match types, an extensive career mode and creation modes that mean there's always something new to sink your teeth into. Couple this with the now gone motion controls and the return of traditional ones and you have undoubtedly the best wrestling game on the Wii to date. Yes, the graphics are beginning to look dated and could do with some refinement for next year, as could some of the sound, and the absence is a disappointment but if THQ can take this as the template for all further titles on the console and improve on those areas, then we'll have an even better game than this, and that's not going to be an easy task to do given how good this one is.
Pro: Vast amount of content will keep you playing for months to come, traditional controls are a godsend, and presentation does a good job of recreating the sport...
Con: ...But it is beginning to look a bit dated, lack of online is a missed opportunity for sharing created content
Final score: 8.4